On Women’s Equality Day, 2015

HMZ (8)My grandmother was nineteen years old on August 26, 1920 when the 19th Amendment, giving all U.S. women the right to vote, was added to the United States Constitution.  It had been 144 years since Abigail Adams in 1776 had asked her husband, John, to “remember the ladies” in the laws of our fledgling country, and 72 years since the Seneca Falls’ Declaration of Sentiments demanded that all women “have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.”  The fight was long and the victory hard won.  Women on the forefront of this movement suffered public ridicule, physical violence, and jail time.

Ninety-five years later many doors have opened to women, but there is still much to be done. Many women still earn less than men for doing the same job, with the gap widest for women of color.  We still need the Paycheck Fairness Act to become law which gives women the legal tools they need to fight workplace discrimination. We are still the only developed country without paid leave of any kind, and when 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women, many of them single parents struggling to provide for their families, we need to give them a raise.

I am not ashamed to admit that my dream is to stand on the National Mall, with my mother and my daughter, to witness Hillary Clinton sworn in as President of the United States.   For when she takes the oath of office, not only will we be ending the 44-0 shutout at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we will have a champion in residence who has spent her lifetime fighting for the rights of women and families.

It’s time.


Cross-Post: How I Spent My Sunday

Cross-posted from The Neophyte Photographer (Originally posted on Monday, March 18, 2013)

Long-time followers know that I photographed the first ever Medical Outreach Response Event (MORE) last year as my final project for my lighting class.   They held the event again this past weekend and I volunteered to shoot the event. They already had a photographer for Saturday so I showed up yesterday.  Sunday wasn’t as busy as Saturday, but there was still plenty of need.   There are no medical services to speak of in our town. Many of these people are working poor, or disabled, and there are so many hurdles for them to jump over and so many cracks for them to fall through, that the problem feels insurmountable.

Here are just a few shots.

Attendees starting the process at intake.  The clients were screened here and directed to the various areas, depending on their need.

They might need dental work, vision care, help with obtaining affordable insurance or low-cost prescription assistance.  Or all of the above. There was also an immunization clinic to get people up-to-date on their shots, mental health screening, three dental vans, and the Mammovan was there to provide breast cancer screening.

 People shouldn’t have to get their health care in the middle of a high school gymnasium or get their teeth fixed in the parking lot. My country has its priorities all screwed up.

They shouldn’t have to wonder if there is something . . .  anything . . .  they can afford.

A young boy attempts to read the eye chart as the Lions Club volunteer looks on.

Immunization clinic.

She’s a bit nervous.

But she came through with flying colors.

More to come.

Hitting the wall

Why Gender Equality Stalled (NYT)

These are all important points. But they can sound pretty abstract to men and women who are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to arranging their work and family lives. For more than two decades the demands and hours of work have been intensifying. Yet progress in adopting family-friendly work practices and social policies has proceeded at a glacial pace.

Today the main barriers to further progress toward gender equity no longer lie in people’s personal attitudes and relationships. Instead, structural impediments prevent people from acting on their egalitarian values, forcing men and women into personal accommodations and rationalizations that do not reflect their preferences. The gender revolution is not in a stall. It has hit a wall.

[ . . . ]

Between 1990 and 2000, however, average annual work hours for employed Americans increased. By 2000, the United States had outstripped Japan — the former leader of the work pack — in the hours devoted to paid work. Today, almost 40 percent of men in professional jobs work 50 or more hours a week, as do almost a quarter of men in middle-income occupations. Individuals in lower-income and less-skilled jobs work fewer hours, but they are more likely to experience frequent changes in shifts, mandatory overtime on short notice, and nonstandard hours. And many low-income workers are forced to work two jobs to get by. When we look at dual-earner couples, the workload becomes even more daunting. As of 2000, the average dual-earner couple worked a combined 82 hours a week, while almost 15 percent of married couples had a joint workweek of 100 hours or more.

[ . . . ]

This is where the political gets really personal. When people are forced to behave in ways that contradict their ideals, they often undergo what sociologists call a “values stretch” — watering down their original expectations and goals to accommodate the things they have to do to get by. This behavior is especially likely if holding on to the original values would exacerbate tensions in the relationships they depend on.

In their years of helping couples make the transition from partners to parents, the psychologists Philip and Carolyn Cowan have found that tensions increase when a couple backslide into more traditional roles than they originally desired. The woman resents that she is not getting the shared child care she expected and envies her husband’s social networks outside the home. The husband feels hurt that his wife isn’t more grateful for the sacrifices he is making by working more hours so she can stay home. When you can’t change what’s bothering you, one typical response is to convince yourself that it doesn’t actually bother you. So couples often create a family myth about why they made these choices, why it has turned out for the best, and why they are still equal in their hearts even if they are not sharing the kind of life they first envisioned.

Cross-Post: Good Luck, Mr. President

Cross-posted from The Neophyte Photographer.

It is Inauguration Day in the United States.

For all the silliness of the election season, and regardless of the winner, I like inauguration day and the peaceful transition of power it symbolizes (or in this case, the assent of the people to the continuation of the current administration).  I’ve got a number of friends who are there and I hope they have a great time.

I took these shots of the White House last March.  You can see the lights on in the Oval Office and I wonder if they are on all the time, or only when the President is in residence. I’m pretty sure President Obama was in D.C. at the time, so seeing the lights on was kind of cool.

UPDATED to add: Okay, now I’m feeling rather foolish. I’ve been operating under the misapprehension that the Oval Office is located in the White House. It is not. Rather it is located in the West Wing, a separate building on the White House grounds.

A Meaningful Day

Cross-posted from The Neophyte Photographer

I spent several hours today (12/23) in downtown Reno at the 12th Annual Reno Firefighter’s Christmas Party for homeless and underprivileged kids.   It was my honor to serve as the Santa photographer.

Santa and Mrs. Claus (Rick & Laura Griffin)

We provided the kids with prints to take with them as a memento of the day.  Obviously I cannot post any of the photos with the kids, but here’s one of us with Santa that I shot later in the day.  The firefighter is in my Freethinkers group and asked some of us to volunteer. The two young woman took care of the printing, and I did the shooting. We worked out a system where I did about ten kids, pulled my card to give to them to download and print. In the meantime I’d do another ten on another card. They were able to keep up with the volume and we never had any long lines of people waiting for their prints.

Our Humanity

I was asked to represent Reno Freethinkers at an interfaith service this evening at the University of Nevada to honor the victims, families and first responders in Newtown, Connecticut. Many faiths were represented tonight (Catholic, Christian (fundamentalist evangelical, mainstream Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu and Baha’i), and me, the non-believer. I appreciated the opportunity. Certainly among the grieving are people like me. It was a moving night, particularly the prayer of mourning sung by the Baha’i celebrant. I didn’t understand the words, but the emotion came right through.

My prepared remarks:

I don’t know who wrote this, but I’d like to share it with you today.

I have seen a mother at a cot – so I know what love is;
I have looked into the eyes of a child – so I know what faith is;
I have seen a rainbow – so I know what beauty is;
I have felt the pounding of the seas – so I know what power is;
I have planted a tree – so I know what hope is;
I have heard a wild bird sing – so I know what freedom is;
I have seen a chrysalis burst into life – so I know what mystery is;
I have lost a friend – so I know what sorrow is;
I have seen a star-decked sky – so I know what infinity is;
I have seen and felt all these things – so I know what life is.

Today we come together in our humanity. Whether we are Believers, Agnostics, or Atheists, we stand here in our humanness and grief. We are drawn together by the need to be close to each other, to collectively honor those no longer with us, and to hold in our hearts those whose hearts and lives have been shattered in a million pieces. We come together today to comfort each other as well.

Centuries ago the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote:

“In the presence of death, we must continue to sing the song of life. We must be able to accept death and go from its presence better able to bear our burdens and to lighten the load of others. Out of our sorrows should come understanding. Through our sorrows, we join with all of those before who have had to suffer and all of those who will yet have to do so. Let us not be gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows. Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones, we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts. Let us make the best of our loved ones while they are with us, and let us not bury our love with death.”

What happened in Newtown is unimaginable, and yet it is real. It happened. As a parent, I cannot imagine it. For those of us with no belief in a comforting god or an afterlife, death does indeed have a sting. For we do not believe we shall see our loved one again; we do not think they have gone to a better place. They are asleep, never to awaken. They have been taken from us.

All we can do is miss them. And remember them. They live on as long as they live in our hearts. All we can do is gather close and love those of us who remain.

This is the bargain we make. We put our hearts out there in love and friendship because the reward is love and friendship in return. And sometimes, because that is just the way life is, our hearts will be broken in ways we will never understand.

I’d like to close with another poem:

When I die, give what is left of me to children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers walking beside you.
Put your arms around anyone, and give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave you with something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me, then let me live on in your eyes, your mind and your acts of kindness.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands and letting go of children that need to be free.
Love does not die, people do.
So when all that is left of me is love…..
Give me away…..